SEASIDE HEIGHTS - Construction has begun to reconstruct a Jersey Shore landmark destroyed by Superstorm Sandy and then later ravaged by a large fire.
Spectators gathered to watch the first pilings being drilled into the sand, which will make Casino Pier in Seaside Heights twice as large as it was before.
The iconic Jersey Shore landmark was destroyed by Sandy. About a year after the storm, the boardwalk was badly damaged once again by a large fire. Casino Pier officials say the new plans include more amusements, rides and attractions. A new roller coaster is also planned, to replace the Jet Star roller coaster that was destroyed by Sandy.
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“Ever since Superstorm Sandy, Seaside's been trying to come back and I think this is going to start it. This will bring more families, more kids,” says Casino Pier spokeswoman Maria Mastoris.
A new Ferris wheel is also planned to be built. The owners tried to get permission for taller rides, but Seaside officials voted against the proposal.
While some Seaside Heights residents say they are excited for the new pier and the tourism it is expected to bring, others say they are upset that a large chunk of the public beach was given up to a private business to make the expansion happen.
The owners of Casino Pier made a land swap with Seaside Heights officials. Beach property was traded for a historic carousel as well as property elsewhere in town. Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit, because they say the deal is a breach of the Green Acres protection program. Those suits were dismissed.
The pier expansion is expected to be completed by summer 2017.